I learned about Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) while I served in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1990s. My job in the military as a communications and computers project manager was not particularly stressful but a few other things were going on in my life at the time that I noticed that I was getting stressed about life. PMR helped me relax and take a timeout and let things go.
PMR is an exercise that, if practiced regularly, can help individuals achieve an overall sense of relaxation. This skill involves systematically working through the major muscle groups in the body and recognizing what it feels to have tension in each area and then letting that tension go.
Below are some instructions to help with your practice:
First get into a comfortable position – sitting or lying down. You will progress your way through the muscle groups in your body – tensing and then relaxing as you go. As you tense, take a deep breath and hold the muscle tense for five to seven seconds. Focus on the muscle. As you breathe out, say “relax” to yourself and let the tension go. Focus on the muscle as it relaxes. Rest quietly for about 45 seconds, still concentrating on that muscle before you shift on to the next muscle group.
Repeat in the following order:
Ø Start with your right hand. Stretch your right hand and fingers out as hard as you can.
Ø Tense your right biceps by pressing your right elbow down or against its support.
Ø Stretch your left hand and fingers.
Ø Tense your left bicep by pressing down on what is supporting you.
Ø Raise your eyebrows (as tight as possible to tighten your upper face).
Ø Screw your eyes tight and wrinkle up your nose (to tense the center of your face).
Ø Clench your jaw.
Ø Tense your neck by stretching and raising your head.
Ø Pull your shoulders back and together to tension your chest.
Ø Tighten and brace your stomach muscles.
Ø Tense up the muscles in your right thigh.
Ø Pull the toes of your right foot in and curl your foot inward.
Ø Stretch the toes of your right foot out and curl them upward toward your head.
Ø Tense up the muscles in your left thigh.
Ø Pull the toes of our left foot in and curl your foot inward.
Ø Stretch the toes of your left foot out and curl them upward toward your head.
When you are finished, stay sitting or lying quietly for another minute or two. Notice how you feel. Relax. Note the areas of your body where tenseness persists. Breathe quietly and steadily.
One thing that may help you in this exercise is to make a recording (very easy to do with cellular phones these days) progressing through each stage and reminding yourself to breath. At first you may not like the sound of your voice but I recorded me going through this exercise and it freed my mind to just listen and focus on tensing my muscles and then relaxing.
I had to learn the hard way to take timeout for myself. PMR helped me be deliberate and take timeout and use this relaxation technique to let go! I hope it works for you. Let me know how it goes:-)